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As Meat Workers Get Sick, Trump Signs An Executive Order To Keep Plants Open

A sign outside the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota, one of the countrys largest known Coronavirus clusters, is seen in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
A sign outside the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota, one of the countrys largest known Coronavirus clusters, is seen in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

President Trump signed an  executive order on Tuesday compelling meat processing plants to stay open. His announcement came after companies began scaling back operations after  plants around the country turned into COVID-19 hotspots. Trump invoked the Defense Production Act on Tuesday to classify meat plants as essential infrastructure that must remain open.

Three of the largest pork processing plants in the country have shut down indefinitely, wiping out 15 percent of the country’s pork production capacity. Several other mid-size pork producers have also announced periods of closure to deep clean their facilities and test their employees.

Some of the nation’s largest meat processing facilities failed to provide personal protective equipment to their workers. Some employees say  they were instructed to continue to work in crowded plants despite the pandemic.

We talk to a meat plant worker about the reality inside the plants. We also speak to a representative from the pork industry.

What is being done to protect meatpacking plant workers? What do these outbreaks mean for the American meat supply? What impact will Trump’s executive order have on health and safety?

Copyright 2020 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.

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